Verizon Samsung Fascinate Galaxy S Android Smartphone Review

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samsung fascinate 10When I decided to ditch my iPhone 4 for an Android smartphone on the Verizon network, I had to choose between the Droid X, Droid 2 and HTC Incredible. I opted for the Droid X after checking out all three. At the time, the Samsung Fascinate had yet to become available. I didn’t want to wait any longer to make the jump, so I went ahead and purchased the Droid X mainly for the huge screen and physical buttons. A short time ago, Verizon’s Galaxy S phone (the Samsung Fascinate) became available and I’ve had the opportunity to test one for the past couple of weeks. Am I sorry that I didn’t wait for it? Let’s see. 

For those of you not familiar with the term “Galaxy S”, it refers to a line of Android smartphones from Samsung. Samsung created a phone for each of the major US carriers (AT&T, Tmobile, Verizon, Sprint) with the same basic feature set that includes a 4″ AMOLED 480×800 pixel display, 1Ghz processor and 5MP camera. The phones are not identical. Each phone has a different form factor / shell (the Sprint version even has a physical QWERTY keyboard) and may have different memory configurations and / or other modifications.

Hardware Specs

Carrier: Verizon Wireless, 1X/EV-DO, Rev. A
Processor: 1GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird
Memory: Flash: 512MB, RAM: 384MB, 16 GB microSD card pre–installed on–device — up to 32GB microSD supported
OS: Android 2.1
Display: WVGA 4” 480×800 AMOLED Touch Screen Display
Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1500 mAh., Usage Time: Up 420 minutes or Standby Time: Up to 312 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, WiFi 802.11b/g/n
Camera: 5MP, 4x Digital Zoom
Video: 720p HD
Size: 4.18” x 2.5” x 0.39”
Weight: 4.5 ounces

samsung fascinate 1

Package Contents

Samsung Fascinate Galaxy S smartphone
Micro USB cable
USB AC adapter

Hardware Tour

Let’s start out by comparing the Fascinate with two other popular phones: The Motorola Droid X and the iPhone 4.

samsung fascinate 2

As you will notice, the Droid X is the largest phone in the group, with the Fascinate sitting right in the middle as far as size.

Having carried the Droid X for a month before receiving the Fascinate, I was immediately struck by how small it felt. In hand it made me remember how much I missed a smaller sized phone.

samsung fascinate 3

It felt smaller than the iPhone 4, but as you can see, it’s actually a little longer and very slightly thicker.

samsung fascinate 4samsung fascinate 5

The face of the phone is flat except for a tiny raised bezel around the edge. The call speaker is right above the Verizon logo and there is a row of soft buttons below the Samsung logo. When the phone is in use, pressing the soft buttons will cause them to light up and vibrate with haptic feedback (unless you turn off the vibration feature like I always do).

The back of the phone has the 5MP camera lens and LED flash. There’s also a small speaker at the bottom.

samsung fascinate 6

The volume adjustment button is located on the left side of the phone.

samsung fascinate 7

The power button is on the right side. I don’t know about you guys, but this seems like an odd location for the power button. Most phones have them at the top. It’s not a big deal, but I constantly find myself trying to turn it on by pressing a non-existing top button.

samsung fascinate 8

On the top edge you will find the 3.5mm earphone jack and the micro USB charging port. That’s a weird location for that too… Is it just me?

samsung fascinate 9

At the bottom you will find the microphone.

All in all, the Fascinate is a very sleek phone. In hand it is comfortable with a solid feel. It passes the Gadgeteer squeeze test, but I have to say that it has a toy-like feel to it. I think it feels that way because it’s light weight and made of very shiny plastic. It’s also a dust and smudge magnet. It seems to be a scratch magnet too. I don’t know if the person that had my review unit before me was rough with it, or if I caused the scratches, but there are quite a few very fine lines on the back of mine. I’ve kept it by itself in a cargo pants pocket or a soft lined pocket in my gear bag the whole time I’ve been carrying it, so I’m not sure how they got there.

samsung fascinate 11

AMOLED displays are one of the main attractions to the Galaxy S phones. Why? Because they are crazy gorgeous with crisp lines, bright vivid colors and they use less power. Samsung also claims that with their anti-reflective screen, that the phone is great outdoors in bright sun light. Ummmm, not so much… From my limited outdoor testing (on a bright sunny day), the screen goes dark and hard to read just like the iPhone and Droid X. But inside or in the shade, the Fascinate’s display will definitely grab your attention. Comparing it to my Droid X, it’s like the difference between an HD display and a non-HD display.

samsung fascinate 12

I have had no problems at all with screen response. Swiping, scrolling, tapping and other gestures are immediately recognized. In the images shown above, you’ll see a bit of Samsung’s own special sauce when it comes to the user interface. They have a collection of special widgets and have gone with a side scrolling application list (ala iPhone) instead of a vertical scrolling list like the Droid. They also put a colored square background behind each icon.

I haven’t been all that impressed with the cameras on Android phones so far. I’m still spoiled by the iPhone camera. It just seems to take better shots and can do macro video, which the others can’t seem to do as well. That said, the Fascinate does take nicer pictures than most. The camera app loads fast and saves images to the microSD card quickly too.


Having recently switched from AT&T to Verizon, I have to say that so far all the Verizon phones I’ve tested have excellent call quality, clarity and volume. The Samsung Fascinate is no exception. I have no complaints at all with using this phone to make and receive calls.


This little guy can busta move. The Fascinate is fast! Applications load quickly, screens scroll smoothly and video playback is enjoyable. I think this phone feels a little faster than my Droid X too. Grrrr 🙂

One area where the Fascinate definitely outshines my Droid X is in battery life. It seems to last forever and ever on a charge. I am lucky to get a day to a day and a half usage out of my Droid X, but the Fascinate can go 2-3 days before I need a recharge. I’m impressed and envious.

One thing that might be a concern is the amount of RAM that this phone has available. The Fascinate only has 384MB vs. 512MB that the Droid X, Droid 2 and Incredible have. So far I’ve not noticed this being a problem though.

Software and things that make you go hmmmmm

In addtion to the stock Android OS build, every phone manufacturer includes a selection of different apps with their Android phones. Samsung includes:

Memo – a basic note taking application that reminds me of BugMe
Mobile IM – AIM, Windows Life and Yahoo instant messaging client
Task Manager – Task killing app
Tetris – Block stacking game
ThinkFree Office – MS Office compatible suite
Nuance – Voice commands
Voice Recorder – Basic audio recorder
Voicemail – Visual voicemail app
Write & Go – Facebook, Twitter and MySpace message sending app

Now for the thing that made me go hmmmmm. Android is from Google right? Then why the heck does the Fascinate use Bing as its default search engine?! Weird with a capital W.

Bottom Line

I like the Samsung Fascinate quite a bit and think it’s a great addition to Verizon’s line up of Android smartphones. The only thing I don’t like about it is the toy-like feel and the fact that it seems to scratch (the back) easily. The two features of this phone that make me sorry that I didn’t wait before buying the Droid X, are the great battery life and the AMOLED display. If I had to choose between the Droid X, Droid 2, HTC Incredible and Samsung Fascinate today, I would pick the Fascinate. So there you have it.


Product Information

Price:$199.99 with 2yr contract, $579.99 without contract
Retailer:Verizon Wireless
  • Gorgeous AMOLED display
  • Great battery life
  • Snappy performance
  • Feels a little like a toy
  • Back scratches easily

44 thoughts on “Verizon Samsung Fascinate Galaxy S Android Smartphone Review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. I have the fascinate. The only complaint is that it doesn’t support more than one Exchange Account. I have two – one for work and one for personal use. The only thing you can do is use a 3rd party app like Touchdown, but that means no integrated calendar. The Droid X does multiple Exchange accounts just fine.

  3. The Fascinate actually has 512 MB RAM, it just utilizes it in a different way. 384 of it is exposed for use by the operating system, while the remaining 128 of it is dedicated as OneDRAM memory. This OneDRAM memory is a dedicated piece of memory that is shared CPU, GPU, and other components for internal processing, and is one of the bigger reasons that the phone performs so well.

  4. Interesting Julie. I just got a unit to use, and I have to say, I want an X. I miss the physical buttons. I find the interface to be a little too colorful. It seems to try too hard to be like an iPhone. Did you feel that way (since you were an iPhone user)? Outdoors it seems to do poorly at first, then it adjusts. I assume it has a sensor like some of the other Android phones I have tested.

    You missed my favorite little touch. The sliding door for the USB port.

    1. @Bryan Wow, that’s because I had never noticed sliding door till just now! 🙂
      Regarding the display being too vivid and iPhone like. I felt that way at first. And then I started comparing the same way apps looked between the Droid X and Fascinate. I know I’ll miss the Fascinate when I send it back tomorrow.

  5. I am curious as to why you would get rid of your iphone 4? I am in the market and I am contemplating the galaxy or the iphone 4. 🙂 Thanks for any insight you wish to give or anyone else!!!

    1. @Savannah I didn’t get rid of the iPhone because I didn’t like the phone. I got rid of it because I was tired of AT&T and their poor 3G coverage in my area and call quality. When the iPhone comes to Verizon, I’ll most likely get one.

  6. Samsung did a great job with these Galaxy S phones – The Epic on Sprint is still my favorite because of fine keyboard.

  7. I get so sad when i hear americans talk about phones. Your internet is so open with regard to streaming content but your mobile phone market is SO LOCKED UP! we take it for granted in Australia that we can move phones between networks. ON the Galaxy S and Iphone4 debate, i had a trial of both too and i have an iphone4 now and a galaxy s on order. ultimately i think the Galaxy S is just a superior ohone and thus i will use it and pass on the 4 to a colleague. the iphone has a very clean (but restricted) interface and the Galaxy S i really open so you do need to think about things a little more. so the choice is (for me) do you want to make decision about what you do with and how you use your phone or do you want to live in a controlled ecosystem. most consumers, i reckon, would say the latter.

  8. This is almost exactly like the Epic4G without the keyboard. With the ability to use custom keyboards, I find that I use the physical keyboard less than I thought (30% of the time vs thinking I would use it 80% of the time).

    Verizon is just too expensive for me though

  9. I’m thinking I’d use the keyboard 80% of the time actually – The reason being that the software keyboard takes up part of the screen… When I’m chatting or in a terminal I’d want to see more text. Is the software keyboard just more convenient?

  10. Is anyone using the Fascinate bothered by having to enter a password everytime you want to use the phone? I have been a BB user for years and this extra step is so annoying.

    Does anyone have a work around for this.

  11. Robert McLaughlin

    I moved from the Samsung Galaxy S ATT Captivate phone back to an iPhone 4 after 3 months. I loved the Captivate’s hardware and screen. It was very fast. But the experience of using the phone isn’t as elegant as the iPhone. For instance, the iPhone just works with Microsoft Sync and I can listen to music and make phone calls without taking the phone out of my pocket. I would always have to open the Captivate’s settings to connect to Bluetooth. It only connected automatically a couple of times in 3 months. The iOS is a bit more sophisticated with battery usage. I had to use Tasker on Android to automatically turn the GPS on and off when starting or stopping a GPS app (it is cool though). The iPhone does this automatically. The AMOLED screen is a bit of a battery hog also, unless you stick with black screens/backgrounds since every pixel is a light. I hated the buttons, I almost always had to press 2-3 times. I found I had to use a memory app to kill processes a lot more than with the iPhone. Android feels like Linux in that the OS doesn’t care whether how a process affects the UI so I would experience brief lockups when running lots of stuff, hence the memory app. Updates were non-existent due to the custom Touchwiz UI. The 2.2 update was due in September and it’s still not out. I think the Nexus phones are probably the way to go if you want the best Android experience.

  12. I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy S in India for over 2 months. Just love it. But there is one thing that is making me go nuts – battery life! So I was very surprised by what you wrote about great battery life.

    My battery runs down in 2 to max 2.5 hours with very little to no voice usage. What I have running is 3 e-mail accounts. I have one Exchange ID (which is push), one POP3 mail and one Yahoo mail. I seem to find the GPRS constantly running. I’ve tried to increase the gap between picking mails to like 30 min instead of 5 min which I had kept but still its the same. After a short while I can literally feel the phone battery heat up in my chest pocket – so clearly something is using the phone constantly.

    Its so bad that I find myself going from power-socket to the next. I drive for 2 hours to work and the battery runs down completely and the phone shuts down by the time I reach!

    Wonder if its just my phone or some App that I may have installed that is draining it. BTW, to test, I put off WiFI, Blue Tooth, GPS just to confirm that its not one of these that is draining the battery.


    1. @Suchit You say that you find it using GPRS. Maybe the problem is a very weak signal. It’s constantly trying to grab one and that is what is using all your power. I used to have that problem when I would forget and leave my iPhone in my basement overnight. Sometimes i the morning the phone would be dead.

  13. I’ve had a Fascinate for about 2 weeks now and love it. The first thing I noticed was the weight, this sucker is light especially when compared to the Droid. I love the fact that it can play AVI (DIVX) movies out of the box. My biggest issue with it is the GPS. It appears that the Glaxay S line has had problems with it taking a while to get your position. I’ve heard that Samsung has released a software fix for this. I’ve also seen that other Galaxy S phones have the option to output the video through Mini-USB port using a Mini-USB to HDMI cable or through the Ear Phone Jack. I would like this feature as well. It does come with Samsungs All-Share which allows you to Share media between any DLNA compatiable device wirelessly. Anyways I thought I’d throw my two cents in. I love the phone and would recommend it to anyone.

  14. I would love to have a better user guide. I hate having a nice phone and having to probe to find the information I need to run it. I had an IPhone and I don’t remember going through this.
    Also, the charger being on top of the phone makes it weird if you are charging it while you talk. The last thing is I can’t find a phone cover easy, only one left at Best Buy. BUT–that’s my beef and I do look forward to using this thing when I figure it all out.

  15. I have mine for 3 days and battery life is already a big concern. I can see that a few months down the road, having to recharge like Suchit does. What is the minimal amount of services (not apps) you can have running to save battery but not lose general functionality?

  16. This was a wonderful review and very unbiased. I had chosen this phone for the fact that it was Samsung and for the same reasons that you mentioned. All in all this phone is wonderful to say that I just came from Windows Mobile and was a on the opposing team of Android. Even though this phone is just absolutely wonderful and I don’t want to leaveiti will whenever Verizon gets off their butts and get a Windows Phone 7 versionof this phone like the Samsung Focus on At&t… I love this phone everything is FASCINATING BOUT IT FROM ITS SPEED TO WONDERFUL DISPLAY…

  17. Julie,

    Its not a case of weak signal for sure. I have a full signal at my home and the battery drains out in just about 2 hours. I suspected it o be a bad-battery and so swapped and its the same thing.

    Now I see something which can give me a clue. When I hit Apps, Settings, About, Battery Usage, it shows that 73% of the battery is used by the Calendar application. Now that’s odd. Since I sync my Calendar with Google, I turned sync off and yet I find that the Calendar application is taking up max power.

    A point worth noting is that the Calendar App never worked for me. If I run it, the phone becomes unresponsive/sluggish and then comes with an error – Terminate or Wait. Wait doesn’t help so Terminate is the way out. And before that the system shows red usage on CPU for the App. So clearly the Calendar App is the trouble and maybe its pushing the CPU to work non-stop in the background and thus draining the battery.

    I’m hoping to get Froyo 2.2 and so that would mean a “fresh” start for the Applications.

    Any other suggestions?

    ~ Suchit

  18. Not yet Julie. Have not done a factory reset as I was hoping that I will have to do that only once when I do the upgrade to Android v2.2 (Froyo). Any news on how to get that?

    ~ Suchit

  19. I have had the Fascinate for 2 weeks. I love the phone, it’s lightweight and the display is stunning. My issue is with the apps that Verizon preloads on the phone. I initially signed up for the limited data plan as I am nearly always in a wifi environment. Some of Verizon’s apps will actually turn of wifi to get to the 3g network. My phone used nearly 70M of 3g data in a week (half of the 150M allowance) and it was the Verizon apps. They cannot be removed and they cannot be disabled. Beware the limited data plan!

  20. Julie just an update:

    I went to Germany for under a week and didn’t want to get hit with the expensive data plans so used the “Settings -> Wireless and Networks -> Mobile network settings” to turn OFF the “Data Roaming” feature. So there was data traffic and I found that phone worked just fine. I wasn’t using the phone for voice either due to the huge charges but at least the phone’s battery worked without dying in 2 hours. Here it would last over a day. While in India it won’t last even 3 hours without any voice (but of course there is data traffic).

    So other than roaming is there anyway to turn “data off” – basically turn GPRS off?

    That way I can test if the GPRS is the culprit.

    To reply to your earlier message. Nope. I did not do a factory reset as that would mean I would lose all data. And I was hoping the next version (promised in Oct, then early Nov) would be out so I would anyway have to do that. Not sure on the release date on that one for our region.

    ~ Suchit

    1. @Suchit You could just put the phone in airplane mode so that all the radios are turned off.

      1. Press the Home Key
      2. Press the Menu Key
      3. Tap on Settings
      4. Tap on Wireless and network
      5. Tap on Flight mode

      It really sounds like you have a defective phone, but the only way you can really check that, would be to do a factory reset. Seems to be it would be worth the hassle to reload your data if it fixes the problem…

  21. hey, i have the captivate, and my only problems is horible battery and the gps stinks, it doesnt work well, but other than that this phone works soo much better than an iphone, that is what i had before and i switched to the galaxy s, my iphone took over 6 hours to sync on the computer, this takes 2 min, i love the phone, and i just turned off data roaming, maybe that was the problem, if not then im going to buy a bigger battery online

  22. Reading all these comments has just about “cured” me on the Android phones. Even if they do have cinema like AMOLED screens and sexy skinny light bodies.

    The issues and “fixes” reminds me of the early Windows phones by HTC about 7 years ago. Remember those little pieces of CRAP with their pointing pens?

    Right now I’m feeling like sticking with my Blackberry / 3Gs combination here.

  23. Just a quick update that while I have been waiting and tracking, the update of 2.2 was released on December 1 in India and same day I upgraded the phone.

    While the upgrade went through fine, I find the Calender App was still creating trouble – kept showing the round circle for activity. Therefore it slows the phone and appears to hang the phone. However, there was an option to disable Calendar Sync and also Data Activity. I have tried that but not had enough time to “play with the phone” as I have come on an International trip and can’t do all the testing on long distance costing. All the same, with the data activity turned off, the phone appears to be stable, faster and I love the fact that Adobe Flash 10.1 works – my photo website uses Adobe Flash 10 and earlier this would not work. Now it does – even with streaming.

    Another pleasant surprise was that Skpye which did not work on 2.1 is working well on Android 2.2 – this is a huge cost saving as Skype has the Skype OUT facility to make low cost call over IP – be it WiFi or 3G.

    So with a little more testing I think I should have a stable phone – minus the Google Calendar Sync which seems to be giving the phone trouble both in 2.1 and 2.2 both.

    Still more on this on my return in second week of Dec.

  24. Does anyone have the Galaxy S Vibrant & have used the FM radio in it? Does it work well? Anyone get the Vibrant working with skype with Androind 2.2? Thanks.

  25. I have had the fascinate for two weeks and the battery only last until noon! This is actually the second one I have had in the two week time period. I was really hoping for better battery life. I have everything including sync turned off and still the battery life is short. On top of that the calendar will not work with google calendar. I am very disapointed !

  26. Beau, as I wrote I had this issue but I solved with the upgrade to the latest version and reinstalling my Mail Exchange account (which was the one that was hogging all the power).

    To be honest, I still have an issue with the device being very slow and almost hanging when syncing with Google Calendar so I have turned off the auto sync and do it manually once in a while. Rest the battery life with 1 POP3 account, Mail Exchange (on a mix of GPRS and WiFi) with average voice usage has gone to 12 hour or more. Sufficient for me to last a day’s use. I’m almost satisfied.

    So I would suggest check the settings to see what is using the juice. And from that you can see what to tweak.

    Other than this the phone is great and I love the range of options, features and apps.

  27. I love the Phone. I noticed that on one of my messages, I have a “Yield Sign”; can someone tell me what that means and how to take it off?

  28. I completly love the phone it is light and also does have the long lasting battery and the back of it does not scratch on mine suprisingly it is a really fast phone and very easy to text with and in the outdoors you just have to put your fone really bright it helps so if i had to rate the phone i would rate it a 10 its perfect i would rather have it than any other phone from verizon i think it is the best fone on verizon and im 12 i love it 🙂

  29. Do not get this phone. I can not go through half a day of light use (texting) with a full battery. And do not get this case. I put this case on my phone, and the next day the screen cracked. Not a natrual crack as you would think from if i had dropped the phone. just a sliver of a crack from about half an inch above the power button to half a bunch below the power button. A smooth arc. Samsung and Verizon both call it physical damage. But when i took the phone to a stained glass studio…they said the only way for the display on my phone to crack like that is if the glass was scored (kept it in case) or if the glass was defective. Fine. one small crack, i can live with it. two weeks later, leave phone on bed when i go to work. come home, plug it in cause it has died in the 5 hours since i left and low and behold. another crack has appeared. pressure right? from sitting on top of a bed? right. This second crack is a stress crack. it goes from the bottom of the first crack across the screen and ends up on the bottom between the menu and home buttons.
    Samsung’s statement was that my phone was quality tested, so it can’t be defective. Verizon just said “glass cracks under pressure, so you caused the damage”. Going to get rid of Verizon, and destroy all of my samsung equipment. that includes a tv, video camera, phone. If i company refuses to look at a problem, refuses to stand beside a problem, I won’t be a customer of that company. And folks, just so you know. If i had dropped my phone, thereby causing the damage, i would have paid for the damage. imagine that. Of course, this is after Verizon sold me a phone with an operating system that the phone was too slow to run. Thanks Verizon. I will go back to ATT. I might not get half of my phone calls, but they were at least willing to look at the phone.

  30. Don’t buy this phone if you want to be kept up-to-date with Google’s Android OS. This phone has been stuck on 2.1 (in the U.S.) since Fall 2010 and no Froyo update is coming (2.2). Nor are Samsung/Verizon giving any useful information on an update, just months of empty promises. If you’re cool using an old OS (Gingerbread 2.3 is already on a lot of phones) then you’ll be fine with the Fascinate.

  31. I havent seen anyone mention the automatic shut of when not in use. My phone shuts off not goes to sleep. I constantly have to check it to make sure it is on or I miss calls. I use this phone for work also, missing calls is a bad thing. How would think it would come back on when I call is coming in. How can I fix this problem. I have had this phone for about 3 weeks and this is the only thing that really upsets me!


    Julie D.

  32. This will be my first smartphone. My phone just broke and unfortunately I have to update now. Do you think the Samsung Facinate is a good transition to learning how to use a smartphone?

    1. @Sam Z. I don’t think Android phones are difficult to use at all. Especially if you’re already google-ized and use gmail, and google calendar. 🙂

  33. How do I turn the voice announcement off and get it to just ring. I don’t like for everyone to know who’s calling.
    The battery life is not good on this phone, but it is very lite . I love the phone

    1. @Susan I don’t have that phone anymore, but there has to be a setting (probably in the ringtone section) to turn off the voice feature.

  34. My droid x 2 broke and a co worker had givin me a galaxy s facinate because she bought a new phone on her plan. I tried to activate it at verizon and some strange reason it says lost or stolen so they will not do it unless the old account owner calls to verify thats the case but i was wondering if there was another possible way to activate the phone or if after a certainperiod of time of a non active phone if it changes anything. I no longer live in the same state amd have no way to contact the owner whom i recieved from

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